Te Arawa Lakes Trust

Moving forward together with purpose and confidence.

Wāhi | Location
Pae Tukutuku | Website
Awhina | Support
Government Relations and Communications

Kaupapa | Initiative

Established in 2006, Te Arawa Lakes Trust (TALT) is responsible for the oversight and management of Te Arawa settlement assets, including the region’s 14 lakes.

Karen Vercoe (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Mākino, Te Arawa) led TALT as its CEO for six years, and over that time utilised kaupapa Māori lobbying support from Awhi to improve the Trusts partnerships with Government and accelerate the delivery of programmes across Te Arawa rohe.

Wero | The challenge

Te Arawa has always maintained a steadfast commitment to te taiao: supporting the unique intergenerational relationship tāngata Arawa has with the 14 freshwater lakes and taonga species, such as kōura, tuna, kākahi, inanga, kōaro and morihana.

“Our people have always had the mātauranga (knowledge) and skills to best honour and protect our taiao,” Karen says.

“Yet sharing this kōrero in a way that resonated with ngā Kāwanatanga (the Government) remained a challenge.”

It was a chance meeting that first brought TALT and Awhi together, and for Karen, using a lobbyist with whakapapa to the tribe made the decision that much easier. In 2018, Te Arawa Lakes Trust became the first PSGE (post settlement governance entity) to procure professional, kaupapa Māori lobbying services.

“It is fair to say we did not fully appreciate the value of a professional lobbyist until we watched Holly confidently reignite our political engagement in a way that shared our story authentically, kept our organisation safe and upheld our values,” Karen says.

Te āhua mahi | Our approach

Awhi worked with the Trust to develop clear, consistent messaging about the impact of their mahi across the rohe. A central part of this was communicating how TALT was a responsible steward of public investment and how investment would benefit everyone living in the region.

“Awhi worked with us to develop a focused engagement plan that ensured we were approaching relevant Members of Parliament and actively engaged with appropriate Ministers.”

Ngā hua | The outcome

With both in person and online support from Awhi, TALT was able to quickly realign its work programme to better reflect the tide of political opportunity.

“We invested thousands, and the returns were millions,” Karen says.

Through a few key engagements, the Trust grew from two kaimahi to nearly 100, and accelerated their impact of mātauranga Māori in conservation. In a few short years TALT:

  • launched the first iwi Climate Change Strategy, Te Ara Ki Kōpū, alongside Scion, blending western science and mātauranga Māori
  • was awarded the top prize at the 2019 New Zealand Biosecurity Awards, for their catfish eradication programme ‘Catfish Killas’
  • introduced uwhi (woven harakeke mats) to combat lake weed that has begun to improve the water quality of lakes across the region
  • mobilised more than 1,500 volunteers to cull over 180,000 catfish from the lakes and begin restoration of kōura (crayfish) populations.

“The Trust also received $2.5 million in funding to support the creation of new jobs post COVID-19 – while also enabling and accelerating environmental projects that deliver wider economic, social and cultural benefits,” Karen says

We now understand how powerful it is to share our impact with the right people, and how that kōrero can strengthen our mahi. Awhi has been integral in helping us understand our political impact.


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